The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has sent an open letter to businesses providing PCR tests to remind them of their responsibilities under consumer law.
The letter comes in the wake of complaints about unfair pricing and poor service on the part of certain PCR providers, and warns these businesses that they may face enforcement action from the CMA or trading standards if they continue to ignore their legal obligations.
“The CMA is writing to advise providers of polymerase chain reaction testing in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19) (PCR test providers) to immediately review their practices and policies to make sure that they are in line with the requirements of consumer protection law and to make any changes where necessary,” the letter states.
The practices of concern to the CMA include the advertising of up-front prices for PCR tests which do not include additional charges that everyone must pay; advertising cheap PCR tests which are only actually available in very small quantities or are not available at all; failing to deliver PCR tests or provide results within stated timescales; and refusing to provide consumers with refunds where tests are not provided within advertised and/or agreed timescales.
The Government is also warning 82 companies that they face being removed from the Gov.uk list if they advertise misleading prices.
CMA General Counsel Sarah Cardell said: “PCR test providers should be in no doubt that they need to get on the right side of the law. If they don’t, they risk enforcement action.
“Our advice today will also help people by setting out exactly what they should expect for their money.
“This warning goes hand-in-hand with action taken by Government and is the latest step in our work to tackle rip off prices and bad service. We continue to work closely with DHSC in reviewing this market and will be providing further advice to DHSC on action that can be taken.”
The letter lists 11 steps providers should take, including not focusing their advertising on cheap tests which are only available in small numbers; showing the full cost of tests including all compulsory charges; and providing ‘honest, accurate and clear’ timescales on when tests will be received. PCR test providers should also ensure that PCR tests and results are provided within advertised timescales.